In early March, just days before the United States began to experience the COVID-19 pandemic in earnest, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) published a final rule that detailed requirements for implementation of the new “information blocking” rules put in place under the 21st Century Cures Act, which is intended to enable more widespread access, use and exchange of patient data. The final rule requires all physicians to comply with new regulations on the access, exchange, and use of patients’ electronic health information (EHI).
Information blocking is a large focus of the new regulations and is defined as practices that prevent or materially discourage the access, exchange, or use of EHI. Physicians, hospitals, electronic health record (EHR) vendors, and health information exchanges (HIE) and health information networks (HIN) are all subject to ONC’s rule and are collectively referred to as “actors.”
Actors whose actions are likely to interfere with the access, exchange, or use of EHI could be considered information blockers and subject to penalties or disincentives. EHR vendors and HIE/HINs can receive up to $1 million in civil monetary penalties per violation. Penalties and other “disincentives” for physicians and all other health care providers have yet to be determined by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Currently, physicians and other actors are required to comply with ONC’s information blocking regulations by November 2, 2020. While the California Medical Association (CMA) expects forthcoming regulations to delay enforcement of ONC’s information blocking rule, physicians are encouraged to educate themselves about the requirements and develop an information blocking compliance program.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has created a two-part educational resource to help physicians and their medical practices understand the requirements and develop an information blocking compliance program.
- Part 1 outlines what information blocking is, key terms to know, examples of information blocking practices and a summary of exceptions.
- Part 2 will help physicians start down the path of compliance, including questions to consider, considerations for maintaining a compliance program and next steps.
CMA and AMA along with several professional associations and provider organizations, sent a letter to ONC asking for enforcement discretion for at least one year to allow physicians time to come into compliance with the new rules without fear of being penalized. CMA and AMA are also working to reduce the complexity and cost required for physicians to comply with these new regulations.
For more information, see AMA’s information blocking resources:
- Part 1: What is Information Blocking
- Part 2: How do I comply with Information Blocking and where do I start?
Also see AMA's summary of the information blocking rule.